Today’s Work from Home Environment
Many people now list the ability to work remotely as a requirement when looking for a job or even considering their current role. Gartner stated that 50% of US knowledge workers will continue to work from home into 2025.
After being forced to accommodate remote workers, companies realized that their workforce is even more productive when working from home. A study by Capgemini reported an average increase in productivity of 63%. Personally, I’ve moved twice in the past two years, I travel to see my coworkers at least once a quarter, and I’ve never felt more productive – the only one coming up to my desk to have mid-day conversations is my Siberian Husky, demanding to go outside.
With decreased overhead costs (e.g., building rent, electricity, internet, etc.) and increased productivity, it seems as though employers don’t mind the shift, but it comes with some challenges. Two years ago, companies were scrambling to get their employees the hardware and technology they needed to continue working from home. Now, we’re seeing them take a step back and evaluate which technologies and solutions are not only going to work, but which ones are going to make their employees the most efficient while keeping the company’s data secure.
Challenges that Come with Working from Home
Like with any new environment, there are challenges that come with a drastic shift in corporate culture. We used to rely on people sitting in an office accessing applications that were in the same physical location or on the company network. Now, we need to figure out a way to allow users to securely access the applications they need to from their home.
Connectivity to the Internet
Companies need to make sure that employees have reliable connectivity to handle video calls, email, background applications, and whatever else they’re doing simultaneously. Do they have kids at home that are using the internet? They’ll need to make sure their bandwidth can support them as well.
Basic SD-WAN or routing devices can help with this by prioritizing critical applications over others and failing over to a backup circuit (often LTE) if the primary circuit goes down. However, most residential broadband and fiber will be sufficient with enough bandwidth.
Secure Access: Identity and Access Management (IAM)
Once adequate connectivity is in place, a company must make sure they aren’t opening themselves up to security breaches by letting their employees work from home. Verizon published a report that said:
“80% of data breaches are caused by weak, stolen, or reused passwords”Verizon DBIR
Not only does bandwidth need to be sufficient, but the connection needs to be secure. This is where Identity & Access Management comes in. There are three main components of IAM:
- Password Managers store all passwords, financial information, and other sensitive info in one secure location.
- Single Sign On (SSO) is arguably more secure than a password manager, but doesn’t fit every use case. Each user individually signs onto the SSO platform once, and the system passes secure tokens to the app or website requesting authentication.
- Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) makes sure you are who you say you are, by having you confirm your identity – via a text message, email, biometrics, etc. – in addition to a password. For example, Salesforce uses an app called Salesforce Authenticator to ensure the person signing in is who they say they are.
Companies can use one or a combination of the three options above.
Because more employees are working remote now than ever before, we need to be more secure. We don’t know who is actually attempting to access an application because they aren’t checking into a building. Someone could have easily stolen an employee’s laptop and credentials, or the employee could be using public Wi-Fi. Assurances like MFA are necessary to block bad actors from accessing company data. IAM also gives IT a centralized place to gather reports on user activity and logins and gives them the ability to revoke or provision credentials.
Remote Access: Desktop as a Service (DaaS)
Aside from IAM, there are other technologies to make sure a connection to sensitive data is secure – one of these is DaaS. Gartner has predicted that there will be a 253% increase in DaaS spending from 2021-2024, likely because of the increasing remote workforce.
With DaaS, the entire concept of a desktop is moved to the cloud (i.e., a provider’s data center). Users can leverage any device – a personal laptop, a tablet, a corporate PC, etc. – to access corporate applications and data. Critical company data is stored securely in the cloud, meaning nothing is stored on the end device. DaaS provides both security and performance benefits, while drastically simplifying IT administration. Instead of shipping hardware rapidly (during a pandemic!), or trying to inventory and patch users’ personal devices, the IT team can centrally manage a pool of virtual desktops that are easily accessible via web browser.
Companies can take this approach on-premises – referred to as Virtual Desktop Infrastructure or VDI – but DaaS delivers the same benefits in a pay-as-you-go, monthly operating model that allows for quick turnup and simplified management.
Applications: Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS)
One of the biggest challenges we saw when employees started working remotely was communication. They were no longer sitting in an office to talk face-to-face. They often didn’t have a desk phone at home, and they certainly didn’t want to use their personal cell phone number. We saw companies scramble to find a cloud-hosted communication platform so that their employees could call, chat, etc., without being in the office.
Two years later, these companies are now taking a step back to determine which platform is actually right for their business, which may not be the same as the one that fulfilled their immediate need (i.e. quick turnup time). I talk about the differences between UCaaS providers in this article, along with the considerations to take before choosing a certain provider. This is just the beginning of what we do to narrow down the market for our clients.
UCaaS should be a top consideration if your workforce is remote. It allows your employees to collaborate with each other as well as external parties. This can be done via chat, phone calls, video conferencing, and more. UCaaS delivers all this functionality, on any device (laptop, desktop, mobile phone, tablet), anywhere a user has an internet connection.
The Way We Work Is Changing
We’re not sitting in offices anymore, and for many of us, that change is here to stay. If companies want to retain their employees and attract new ones, they must adapt to the way people want to work and where they want to work from. Not to mention the increased talent pool businesses have access to if they are willing to expand their search to the entire US, or even internationally. By introducing a flexible remote work environment, virtually anyone, anywhere can be a viable candidate.
The technologies discussed in this article will help with employee satisfaction and a company’s security posture when moving to remote work.
If you’re interested in talking through different providers within Identity and Access Management, Desktop as a Service, or Unified Communications as a Service, take a moment to fill out the respective forms linked here and we will set up a meeting! Let us help you today.